Outside Editorial: University Fund

This editorial first ran in the Ketchikan Daily News:

The Legislature always leaves something to do next session.

One of those “things” is Senate Bill 74; its intent is the way for Alaska in the foreseeable future.

SB74, which establishes a University Building fund, is designed to inspire efficiency within the university system.

Patterned after the Alaska Public Building fund of 2000, the legislation would have required university departments to pay for their space.

“Collecting rent from the departments is an important feature of the fund because the university will encourage better use of space while making a cultural change from entitlement thinking to maximizing every square foot,” says Sen. Pete Kelly. “Whenever you ask someone if they have enough space, they say ‘no.’ However, when you make them pay for that space, that opinion seems to change.”

At least that’s what the state has discovered since 2000 when the Alaska Public Building Fund was established; it’s likely the same would have been true, and still might, if the Legislature takes up the bill again next session.

The bill would assist in addressing $1 billion in deferred maintenance of university buildings as well.

The funding would be acquired from the Legislature, left over money from capital projects, donations and rent charges. Of course, the Legislature would have the final say on how much and for what the fund is spent.

SB 74 should be pursued by the House next session. It’s the type of legislation that will help to reduce expenses during this time of reduced spending and lower oil-tax revenue. Undoubtedly, more of this type of legislation is in Alaska’s future.

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